One of the reasons I've been MIA (French class aside) is I've been working on a piece for the magazine about Obama's relationship with the black community. One of the themes I'm looking at is how Obama employs symbolism to woo African-Americans.
There's a stereotype of successful black men that holds that they prefer white women, white society, and white people, overall. And they tend not to identify with the black community. When you're discussing biracial black men, or Ivy League black men, that stereotype is only intensified. The crude saying is "All the good ones are taken, married to white women, or gay." Or some such.
Obama is surely "taken" but he is "taken" by a woman who represents, and formed a family that represents, and thus Obama represents. He has not "opted out." I don't doubt his sincerity in checking "black" on his census forms. Moreover, I think people who urge him to do otherwise, often do so having the luxury of roots, of a home, of being "from somewhere," or of having traditions which are not regarded with some hostility in broad swaths of the country. Still, I would have to believe that Obama understands the message he's sending to that place where he says he is rooted.
And Obama -- and his family -- are as Joe Biden would say, clean. Randall Kennedy is dead-on when he writes:
Blacks love Obama for relieving them of the burden of making excuses for him.
One has not had to worry, for instance, about saying "Yes I know he has a love-child, but he's the only one raising these issues. Or, "Yes, I know three boy accused the pastor molesting them, but the church has helped so many. Or, "Yes I know know five women have accused him of sexual harassment, and he doesn't know a thing about Libya, but the GOP should be more diverse." Or, "Yes I know he urinated on a child, and videoed it, but he sings so beautifully, don't you agree?"
No, Obama is clean.
It's tempting, and perhaps correct, to impugn this low standard, which is, itself, a reflection of racism. (Again, Alex Smith is not worried about what Tim Couch did.) It is equally tempting to dismiss symbolism as unimportant when measured against tangible policy. I hope to look at how Obama's deployment of symbolism often shields him from actual critique. But I don't think symbolism should be easily dismissed. Perhaps having your president croon Al Green at the Apollo really does make your day easier.
One way to think about this is remember that black people are people, and that all people turn human beings into symbols, whatever the person's actions. It's worth thinking about why we -- as humans -- do this. What need are we fulfilling? What ache are we ministering to? What is this need -- among us all -- to represent for our team?
After Donald Trump became the Republican nominee, he was asked on Fox News about his views on NATO and other American alliances. He gave his familiar “they’re freeloaders” answer:
The fact is we are protecting so many countries that are not paying for the protection. When a country isn’t paying us and these are countries in some cases in most cases that have the ability to pay, and they are not paying because nobody is asking….
We’re protecting all of these countries. They have an agreement to reimburse us and pay us and they are not doing it and if they are not going to do that. We have to seriously rethink at least those countries. It’s very unfair.
In a unique, home-spun experiment, researchers found that centripetal force could help people pass kidney stones—before they become a serious health-care cost.
East Lansing, Michigan, becomes a ghost town during spring break. Families head south, often to the theme parks in Orlando. A week later, the Midwesterners return sunburned and bereft of disposable income, and, urological surgeon David Wartinger noticed, some also come home with fewer kidney stones.
Wartinger is a professor emeritus at Michigan State, where he has dealt for decades with the scourge of kidney stones, which affect around one in 10 people at some point in life. Most are small, and they pass through us without issue. But many linger in our kidneys and grow, sending hundreds of thousands of people to emergency rooms and costing around $3.8 billion every year in treatment and extraction. The pain of passing a larger stone is often compared to child birth.
All the nominee had to do at the first debate was appear polite and reasonable for 90 minutes. He failed.
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y.—Before this week’s first presidential debate, it was common for Donald Trump’s television surrogates to predict it would echo the sole 1980 encounter between Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.
It turned out, to borrow from another famous debate moment, Donald Trump was no Ronald Reagan.
On the surface, the analogy appeared reasonable. Like Hillary Clinton today, Carter in 1980 bet most of his chips on personally disqualifying Reagan. Carter painted his opponent as unqualified, ill-informed, extreme, and dangerous—an aging entertainer who might trigger a nuclear war through ignorance and belligerence.
For months, enough voters feared Carter might be right to keep him close in the polls, despite enormous dissatisfaction with his job performance. But when Reagan in the debate presented himself as composed, reasonable, and genial (swatting away even accurate Carter recitations of his most outrageous earlier statements with a jaunty “There you go again”) the doubts softened, Carter’s support crumbled, and the Gipper rolled to a landslide.
A new study looks at rates of lethal violence across a thousand species to better understand the evolutionary origins of humanity’s own inhumanity.
Which mammal is most likely to be murdered by its own kind? It’s certainly not humans—not even close. Nor is it a top predator like the grey wolf or lion, although those at least are #11 and #9 in the league table of murdery mammals. No, according to a study led by José María Gómez from the University of Granada, the top spot goes to… the meerkat. These endearing black-masked creatures might be famous for their cooperative ways, but they kill each other at a rate that makes man’s inhumanity to man look meek. Almost one in five meerkats, mostly youngsters, lose their lives at the paws and jaws of their peers.
Gómez’s study is the first thorough survey of violence in the mammal world, collating data on more than a thousand species. It clearly shows that we humans are not alone in our capacity to kill each other. Our closest relatives, the chimpanzees, have been known to wage brutal war, but even apparently peaceful creatures take each other’s lives. When ranked according to their rates of lethal violence, ground squirrels, wild horses, gazelle, and deer all feature in the top 50. So do long-tailed chinchillas, which kill each other more frequently than tigers and bears do.
A man’s life hinges on the Supreme Court’s evaluation of racist testimony during his sentencing.
The island of Minorca is now part of Spain. Roughly 270 square miles in area, it basks in the sunny Mediterranean some 75 miles east of its larger sibling, Mallorca.
Minorca is also, however, located entirely within the Ward of Cheap, a district covering the half-mile between Farringdon Street and Old Jewry within the City of London.
You could look it up.
The island was magically imported into Cheap by the English Court of Common Pleas in 1774. This ludicrous geographical fiction was the only way the court could assert jurisdiction over a claim by a Minorca resident that the British royal governor had assaulted and falsely imprisoned him.
Like the wandering island, most legal fictions grow up because they allow the law to do things more easily.
For decades, the candidate has willfully inflicted pain and humiliation.
Donald J. Trump has a cruel streak. He willfully causes pain and distress to others. And he repeats this public behavior so frequently that it’s fair to call it a character trait. Any single example would be off-putting but forgivable. Being shown many examples across many years should make any decent person recoil in disgust.
Judge for yourself if these examples qualify.
* * *
In national politics, harsh attacks are to be expected. I certainly don’t fault Trump for calling Hillary Clinton dishonest, or wrongheaded, or possessed of bad judgment, even if it’s a jarring departure from the glowing compliments that he used to pay her.
But even in a realm where the harshest critiques are part of the civic process, Trump crossed a line this week when he declared his intention to invite Gennifer Flowers to today’s presidential debate. What kind of man invites a husband’s former mistress to an event to taunt his wife? Trump managed to launch an attack that couldn’t be less relevant to his opponent’s qualifications or more personally cruel. His campaign and his running-mate later said that it was all a big joke. No matter. Whether in earnest or in jest, Trump showed his tendency to humiliate others.
It looked likelier than ever at this week’s “Super Bowl of climate law.”
WASHINGTON—There’s a commonplace when writing about climate change, a juxtaposition so familiar it almost deserves a name. It resembles CSPAN, but directed by Michael Bay. First, a speaker points to the prospect of 21st century ecological collapse: sloshing waves, ravenous forest fires, fathers weeping as their crops succumb to a drought.
Then, the camera reveals the rooms where people make climate-change policies today. They are wood-paneled, document-strewn, and full of briefcases. Compared to the Hollywood blockbuster that preceded them, they seem boring. They are boring. But then the punchline: In this room—this bureaucratic, tedious room—the fate of the whole planet is decided.
The films touted for consideration this year include prestige projects like Martin Scorsese’s Silence and festival hits like Barry Jenkins’s Moonlight.
With the main film festivals of the fall (Telluride, Venice, and Toronto) now concluded, and Martin Scorsese finally confirming that his much-anticipated drama Silence will come out at the end of the year, the next three months will bring a calendar loaded with prestige releases. Among them are films that better reflect the wide range of faces and voices in America (and around the world), which have recently been severely under-represented on Oscar night. Audiences and critics will be paying especially close attention to the works and actors the Academy chooses to recognize, after the awards were condemned this year for nominating only white performers two years in a row.
The question, as always, is which films will be able to stand out once studios begin their awards campaigns in earnest. A lot can happen in a few months; after all, the season has already seen its earliest anointed front-runner practically disappear from the race. The former Best Picture favorite was the big story out of Sundance: The Birth of a Nation(October 7), a searing depiction of Nat Turner’s 1831 slave rebellion in Virginia written and directed by Nate Parker. The film won the festival’s Grand Jury Prize just as the conversation over the largely white Oscar nominations was at its loudest. The movie was acquired by Fox Searchlight for a record $17.5 million, with the studio promising a huge publicity campaign in the fall to help push it for awards contention.
It appears the virus was spread through the tears or sweat of a patient with a particularly severe infection.
Utah’s mystery Zika case has been solved, and the answer, as with so many revelations about Zika, is something never before seen with this virus. Someone seems to have gotten Zika through only casual physical contact with an infected person—the first such case that’s been documented.
In July, after a 73-year-old patient who’d contracted Zika while traveling to Mexico died (a rare occurrence in itself), a second person came down with the virus. The second patient had visited the first man in the hospital, but had not traveled to any Zika-infected areas or had sex with anyone who had. So with the two known methods of transmission—mosquito bites and sexual transmission—out of the running, it was unclear just how this second person had managed to get infected.